Stillitano talks International Champions Cup TV rights, MLS involvement and player availability

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The 2016 edition of the International Champions Cup, a soccer tournament featuring many of the world’s greatest teams, will return to North America and Europe this summer and will feature 12 games, said Charlie Stillitano, co-founder and chairman of Relevent Sports, in an interview with World Soccer Talk Radio.

“This year, we should have 12 games between the US and Europe.

“I think we’re going to have our strongest lineup yet.

“We’re going to be in the major cities, New York, LA and Chicago but there’s going to be some surprise venues also, some new venues.

“We know that we’ve really have to had the best lineup we’ve ever if we’re going to compete with those two events (Copa America Centenario and Euro 2016). Not just for competition with spectators, but certainly for sponsor dollars and TV interest, you want to capitalize on all of the soccer going on this summer.”

Meanwhile, there will most likely be a change in the TV rights for the International Champions Cup, which is in its fourth year.

“We’re very close to making a decision.

“We actually have major networks fighting over our property. It’s an interesting property because there’s a block of time when there’s no football (from late July to early August).

“We should have our broadcast partner within the next two weeks.

“I think it’s safe to say that all three (NBC, FOX and ESPN) are in the running. We’ve had offers, and we’re sorting through which one would be better for the future of the ICC. It may not come down to a money figure.”

Regarding player availability, Stillitano is confident that many of the world-class stars will be participating.

“[The International Champions will be] going to late July, early August, so we don’t think the Centenario will effect us at all,” said Stillitano. “We’ve spoken to teams and gotten their guarantee regarding some popular South American players. It’s more difficult to guarantee players that are in the finals of the Euros. But what we have found is that, for example, we’re sort of locked in to end our tournament around August 6. We have a lot of teams that are still in the Champions League. If they win the Champions League, we have the UEFA Super Cup which is August 9th or 10th. We have to be finished by August 6, as one of those teams could absolutely be participating in the UEFA Super Cup.

“By having [the International Champions Cup] in preseason, we’ve found that every player wants to be back. The French league starts the first week in August. The German and Italian leagues start on August 23rd, but the preliminaries for the Champions League start as early as August 17th. And the preliminaries for the Europa League are the last week in July, so what you have is a congested calendar. But we benefit because it’s not like you can come from vacation and suddenly start the season.”

SEE MORE: Adventures on the road with the International Champions Cup in New York and New Jersey.

Last but not least, Stillitano addressed the lack of MLS teams participating in the tournament in the past few years, and whether that may change this summer.

“What happened this year has been more peculiar because the MLS teams are taking 2 weeks off for the Centenario, and so because of that, we couldn’t get a MLS team to take 8 to 10 days off to participate in the ICC. We’re not done with it yet, but it’s safe to say that we wanted MLS teams but with the schedule this year we couldn’t get a team to say that they want to take it off.

“Right now, we’re probably having [the tournament] without the MLS teams. But I’m absolutely certain that next year we will have MLS teams in it again.”

Stillitano did add that he would be open to including the Cosmos or other NASL teams in the future, and has been talking to other clubs from around the world including Liga MX, as well as MLS clubs that are interested in participating in the ICC China and Australia competitions in the future.

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